OjO Games is the company behind a number of fun and educational games that retail for an affordable $19.99. Having launched 11 board games, the brand aims to promote active learning and exploration of topics ranging from the digestive system, to dinosaurs, to DNA. Currently, the titles include:
- Atomic Force
- Dino Age Journey
- DNA Factory
- Food Battles
- Robot Workshop
- Space Rescuers
- Shape Factory
- Movie Director
- Story Creations
- Which Way? Coding Board Game
- PC Maker Kit
Maha Khawaja, the founder of OjO Games, recently discussed the company and is ambitions via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into designing games and how did you forge a path in the toy industry?
Maha Khawaja (MK): I stumbled across the idea of making STREAM educational games as a full-time working parent, after struggling to find something suitable to keep my then four-year-old son occupied. Time with my son was always limited and I wanted to make the most of it.
My vision was to develop games that were great fun for children and all the family, as well as being popular with schools and clubs, and that had the added advantage of developing valuable skills through play. The toy industry has seen an interesting shift over the last few years as toymakers look to the future of play and what that means for the industry. We have found our games to be extremely well received in this shift.
MM: How did you come up with the concept for your games and their themes?
MK: There is a growing need to develop crucial STEM skills at a young age to enable children to go on to study and work in areas where currently we have a serious shortage. I felt that we could help address the STEM skills problem through our games. Now we’re also developing an integrated STREAM learning platform to complement primary education. In the early stages we worked with a fantastic branding agency called Idea is Everything based in London, UK who helped us bring the concept to life visually. I also have a Brand and Marketing background and it was vital for me that we set out to build a playful brand for kids of the future, right from the very beginning.
MM: What is it about that “what if” factor that you found so interesting to explore?
MK: We like to ask ourselves “What if girls could love chemistry?” and “What if boys could become vivid story tellers?” We want to break-down the typical stereotypes that develop from a young age around certain subjects or genders. We wanted children to move from a place of “I’m bad at Math” or “I can’t draw” to a place of curiosity and resilience to tackle any learning challenge that comes their way. Educators call this the “Growth Mindset” and we call it “What if I could solve any problem of the future?”
MM: Do you have a favorite out of the games and what aspect of the game play do you consider to be the most fun?
MK: No one has ever asked me that question! It’s so hard for me to choose one as they are all so much fun and all ages can get really involved, but I personally love the “Robot Workshop” because within minutes you can watch the kids becoming confident with Robotics vocabulary and solving real missions, as well as “Atomic Force” because it has certainly helped me overcome my fear of chemistry!
MM: Why did you decide to name your company OjO and how did you establish it officially?
MK: OjO means “eye” in Spanish and we chose this name because to us it represents the lens through which children see the world, and it’s also a window into the future they will be a part of. OjO was set up in London, UK in early 2017, when I managed to convince some fantastic educators and product designers to come on board the roller coaster ride.
MM: How did you create the prototype games and how different were they from the final products?
MK: Our product development process is at the heart of our company and is really what allows us to create so many games despite being smaller in size. Our lead product designer has previously worked at Lego and knows a thing or two about what makes kids happy. All our games start with a strong theme or topic from leading STEM curriculums, selected with our panel of STEM experts including Science Teachers and Child Psychologists. We always select topics that are popular with kids to trigger their curiosity and engage them deeper into game play and active learning. We study what aspects of these topics would be most challenging yet rewarding for kids to accomplish and we design paper-based games around them. All our game concepts and mechanics are tested by kids, parents and school teachers before physical prototypes are created. If we get the green light from our testers then physical prototypes are produced in our factory and tested further not just by potential users, but also for safety and toxicity in toy safety labs in the UK, US and China. We find that game rules and instructions are often the aspect that take the longest to perfect.
MM: What was the process of finding a factory to produce these games like?
MK: It was an interesting process for sure! Our lead product designer visited factories in the UK and China to initially scope out options. Our current factory is great to work with, and we actually found them online! Our experience of production in China has been very positive so far.
MM: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working within the toy industry?
MK: Fostering a love for STEM for children all over the world, and knowing that your games will make a difference.
MM: Where do you hope your career and OjO Games will be in ten years?
MK: Another interesting question! I would love to think that we are building the next Lego company and aspire for there to be an OjO game in every home where there are kids.
MM: Are there any upcoming events–or impending releases–that you would like to mention?
MK: Lots of exciting things always going on at OjO HQ! We have just launched our STREAM game subscription service which offers a monthly board game, story book and sticker book to kids in the US only, and are hoping to roll this out quickly as we know how difficult it is for families right now. Keep your eyes peeled for some Kickstarter campaigns later this year as we launch some exciting games to help solve more problems of the future!
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